Apple announces the HomePod

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Apple’s long-rumored Amazon Echo competitor is real. It’s called the HomePod (yes, I know). “We want to reinvent home music,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the company’s WWDC keynote. The Apple Speaker is focused on music first, not Siri.

Apple’s SVP of Global Marketing Phil Schiller said Sonos aren’t smart speakers and Amazon Echos aren’t good speakers. So Apple wants to combine the best of both worlds. It’s a smart market strategy. HomePod is shipping later this year — it’s not quite ready for prime time.

The device is a pill-shaped circular speaker. It has 7 beam-forming tweeter array. It has a custom-made woofer and an Apple A8 chip. It has multi-channel echo cancellation, real-time acoustic modeling and more.

The HomePod can scan the space around it to optimize audio accordingly. Schiller spent a lot of time talking about how good it sounds. It’s hard to know for sure when you’re listening to a song coming out of giant speakers in a conference hall.

Of course the speaker works well with Apple Music. You can talk to the speaker to play anything in your Apple Music library and more. You can say “play more songs like that,” or “I like this song.”

You can also ask other Siri queries, such as news headlines, the weather, sports scores and more. And if you have HomeKit-enabled devices, you can control your lights, garage door, air conditioning and more using this speaker.

Interestingly, Apple also announced AirPlay 2 earlier today, which lets you pair multiple speakers and play music in multiple rooms. I’m sure many customers will buy multiple speakers for their home.

It’s going to cost $349. It comes in white and space grey. It starts shipping in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. Other countries will get HomePods next year.

And that’s about it for now. I’m sure well learn more about the device in the coming months, but it seems like Apple is downplaying this announcement. The company knows it’s late to this market. So it has to prove that it can make a good speaker before calling it the best speaker ever.

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